The Wall Street Journal had an article this morning entitled “Lawyers will be lawyers, dumping more on juries than they can process.” The premise of the article basically was that giving a jury too much evidence works against you.
It’s an occupational hazard: Lawyers, being lawyers, are loath to leave out a single stone of the fortress of evidence they are building, lest it prove to have been the keystone. Prosecutors are tempted to anticipate and counter every argument the defense might make. They sometimes forget that they are also storytellers, who by trade rely on judicious selection — and omission.
The article relates this mostly to white collar cases, but I think it can apply in any type of case. If you bore the jury to death, your less likely to win. And as a defense tactic, sometimes the only thing you can do when you are facing overwhelming evidence is to muddy the waters. If the state calls too many witnesses, it could dilute their message. For instance, in a murder trial, by the time the state gets done calling its dugout of witnesses, the defense hopefully will have muddied the waters enough that the jurors missed any clear message from the prosecution and really don’t remember everything that was said.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney